“It turned out to be a very good thing,” Mr. Trump said. “Because of all we’ve done the risk to the American people remains very low.”
The president said he is tasking Vice President Mike Pence with leading the response, moving forward, and that he’s prepared to accept more than the $2.5 billion he’s requested from Congress to fight the outbreak.
“If they want to give more, we’ll do more,” he said in a crowded White House briefing room.
The U.S. is monitoring 60 cases of the virus on its soil, though 45 of them were “imported” by repatriating Americans from China and a cruise ship in Japan. Officials said Wednesday they discovered a 15th case among people who aren’t linked to the evacuation flights.
“The level that we’ve had in our country is very low and those people are getting better,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the 15 cases discovered in the country.
He said eight of them have returned home, one is quite ill and in the hospital, one is about to be released from the hospital and five have fully recovered.
Mr. Trump also said the situation is nowhere nearly as bad as influenza, which kills tens of thousands in the U.S. per year.
The president, who faces reelection in November, is trying to confront the risk decisively and defuse Wall Street panic or criticism from the media and his 2020 Democratic rivals. The president rarely uses the White House briefing room but gathered with his team of disease fighters and Mr. Pence
Mr. Trump is particularly concerned about the economic fallout from the virus, which has sickened over 80,000 globally, spread rapidly in South Korea and pressed farther into Europe from Italy.
Jitters over the virus caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to forfeit early gains Wednesday and lose 123.77 points, or nearly 0.5%, at closing despite being up over 460 points, or 1.7%, earlier in the day. The S&P500 also squandered its gains while the NASDAQ held on, closing 15 points up.
The markets have suffered major routs this week amid fears the disease known as COVID-19 will cause long-lasting damage to global supply chains. Stocks also tumbled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans on Tuesday to prepare for community-based spread in the U.S., deeming it all but inevitable.
The new virus was discovered in Hubei Province, China, in December. It causes an illness known as COVID-19 that can lead to respiratory distress and organ failure.